Although Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have kept details of their contract negotiations private, the star quarterback turned down what league sources believe was an offer worth about $250 million.
The Ravens also balked at Jackson's wish for a fully guaranteed deal similar to Deshaun Watson's, sources told ESPN, prompting the sides to table contract talks until after the 2022 season.
Sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the Ravens proposed a six-year contract believed to pay Jackson a higher average salary and more guaranteed money than deals signed this summer by Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Wilson signed a $242.5 million deal earlier this month that averaged $48.5 million annually and included $161 million guaranteed, about six weeks after Murray received a $230.5 million deal that averaged $46 million per year and included $189.5 million guaranteed.
But the issue for Jackson wasn't Wilson's deal or Murray's so much as it was Watson's, according to sources. The Browns signed Watson to a fully guaranteed $230 million contract, and Jackson wanted to match it, sources said.
The Ravens' offer included $133 million fully guaranteed at signing, sources told Mortensen, which also is more than both Wilson ($124 million) and Murray ($103.3 million) but well short of Watson's $230 million.
Jackson acted as his own agent in the negotiations while leaning on the help of his mother and the NFL Players Association, whose job it is to offer stats, information, guidance and to be a sounding board, which it was during this process.
The union advised Jackson, 25, that based on his performance and age, he was justified to demand a fully guaranteed contract, sources told Mortensen. Union sources framed the Ravens' talks with Jackson as "good faith," although the team included $2.5 million in annual de-escalator clauses if Jackson did not attend a high percentage of offseason workouts.
When the Ravens balked at Jackson's wish for a full guarantee, the Ravens announced Friday that the sides were stopping contract talks and would resume them after this season.
Jackson will make $23.016 million in his fifth-year option but has no guaranteed money after this season. The 2019 league MVP hopes to land an extension after this season with the Ravens, who are expected to apply their franchise tag on Jackson and prevent him from hitting true free agency if the sides still are unable to reach a deal.
Jackson is making the biggest bet in football on himself, similar to what former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco -- who is starting against Baltimore on Sunday for the Jets -- did in the 2012 season. Flacco's deal was set to expire, and he led Baltimore to a Super Bowl title before becoming one of the highest-paid players in the NFL.
Jackson, who has taken more hits (737) than any other quarterback since 2018, was asked last week whether he feels it's a risk to play with no guaranteed money beyond this season.
"It was a pretty big risk last season. The year before," Jackson said Wednesday. "I'm just playing football. Anything can happen. God forbid the wrong thing happens."
Jackson has proved to be one of the NFL's top playmakers and winners over the past four seasons. Since he became the Ravens' starter midway through the 2018 season, Baltimore is 37-12 (.755) with him and 2-5 (.286) without him. He was the unanimous NFL MVP in 2019.
But Jackson is coming off his most challenging season in 2021, when he threw a career-worst 13 interceptions and missed a career-high five games, including the last four because of an ankle injury.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.